Our smartphones have become a lot smarter, mostly thanks to the inclusion of artificial intelligence or AI in their software features. This AI trend, however, started back when even our powerful handhelds didn’t have enough juice to perform all the processing and learning required to make these AI work. To some extent, they still aren’t, at least on the learning part. Google, however, thinks the time and hardware is right to make most of the AI happen right on the Pixel 3, keeping data private and prevent it from leaking to the cloud and elsewhere.
In the early days, actually just 2 to 3 years ago, almost anything AI-related on the smartphone really happens on remote servers. That’s pretty unsurprising when you think that the most common incarnation of such AI features were in smart assistants who had to do speech recognition and natural language processing on more powerful computers hosted on the cloud. Plus, they more often than not have to make Web searches anyway.
These days, however, AI features do much more than ask about the weather or how old an actor was (when he was alive). From identifying faces in the camera app to screening calls, a lot more personal data is being processed by AI, which also means a lot more personal data might be uploaded to the cloud. And when that AI or cloud belongs to Google, there’s always a certain amount of apprehension and suspicion.
That’s why Google is doing its best to reassure consumers that, even as its Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL smartphones grow more powerful thanks to AI, they have also become more private. It has taken special care so that AI features that handle personally identifiable information, like faces, voice calls, etc. are all processed on the device itself, no cloud required. That’s partly thanks to the power of modern smartphone processors and partly thanks to Google’s re-engineering its AI framework.
That said, not all AI parts happen on-device. The machine learning part still requires churning a lot of data and numbers which would tax our poor smartphones beyond their limits. And when the AI does need to have access to online service, it naturally has to break out of that sandbox. That said, Google assures that when you’re screening calls or detecting if you’re smiling or not, nothing is being sent to the cloud or, worse, to any eavesdroppers.